BCB311

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

DEFINING PLAGIARISM

It has come to our attention that some assignments turned in are not the words of the author but are lifted virtually/or completely verbatim. I have posted the "Official Procedures of the Science Faculty at UWC" on this Weblog. I accept that this was at least partly, un-intentional, nevertheless, one person has responded that they have done this for all of their undergraduate assignments, as you will see this represents plagiarism  since it is not their own work. I will forward these cases to my HOD for a ruling, but the penalties are potentially 100% off for the assignment for post-grads as a first offence. I have yet to mark the assignments for the NISL learners from Pretoria - so if you think that you might have accidentally committed plagiarism please contact me directly by email.  It is REALLY important that you read and understand the rest of this posting.

Unfortunately the Science Faculty does not actually define the limits between what is and what is not plagiarism, so here are my attempts to clarify the issue

Some Dictionary definitions

Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary , 2nd edition, defines plagiarism as, " to take and pass off as one's own (the ideas, writings, etc. of another). "

The Oxford English Dictionary , Vol. XI, Second Edition describes it this way, " the wrongful appropriation or purloining and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another. "

The most usable definition of plagiarism for handed in assignments is.....


"Plagiarism is the deliberate attempt to deceive the reader through the appropriation and representation as one's own the work and words of others. Academic plagiarism occurs when a writer repeatedly uses more than four words from a printed source without the use of quotation marks and a precise reference to the original source in a work presented as the author's own research and scholarship. Continuous paraphrasing without serious interaction with another person's views, by way or argument or the addition of new material and insights, is a form of plagiarism in academic work" (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~hexham/study/plag.html).  

 

This means repeatedly using more than FOUR consecutive words lifted from a source without putting into quotes and providing the reference represents PLAGIARISM


Copying a complete sentence or more without putting into quotes but providing precise reference to the original source of work is PLAGIARISM


Simply re-writing another person's views or articles or arguments is PLAGIARISM, even if you do provide precise reference to the original source of work.




To illustrate PLAGIARISM I will use the following text and provide a couple of examples of plagiarism and what is not plagiarism.

ORIGINAL TEXT
"Like most primates, humans are by nature social. However, humans are particularly adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression and the exchange of ideas. Humans create complex social structures composed of co-operating and competing groups, ranging in scale from nations to individual families, and social interaction between humans has established a variety of social norms, rituals, traditions, values, laws, and ethics which form the basis of human society. Humans also have a unique appreciation for beauty and aesthetics which, combined with the human desire for self-expression, has led to cultural innovations such as art, literature and music." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human



I have used the following http://www.ucalgary.ca/~hexham/study/plag.html terminology to illustrate two cases of PLAGIARISM


Straight plagiarism:

Minor changes are made to sentence like changing a word or two or minor modifications to the structure of the sentence and not acknowledging the original author nor putting the text in quotation marks.

EXAMPLE - Most primates, including humans, are by nature social.

 

EXAMPLE - Humans are particularly adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression and the exchange of ideas


COULD BE WRITTEN AS "Like most primates, humans are by nature social." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human

 

MORE CORRECTLY RE-WRITTEN Humans are similar to most primates in being naturally social animals.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human  (In this case the sentence is sufficiently re-written, however, to continue to rewrite each sentence from an existing article in your own words but maintaining the same structure of the original article is PARAPHRASE PLAGIARISM).  This sentence would then need to have additional explanation from different references, or to debate or to contrast to another statement, again citing references e.g.  Humans are similar to most primates in being naturally social animals, but differ from other primates due to their ability to make and re-use tools. 

 

 

Plagiarism with citation:

In this case minor changes are made but the content of each successive sentence is similar to the original and it is not clear where the citation refers to the last sentence or paragraph?


EXAMPLE - Like most primates, humans are naturally social. However, humans are especially adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression and are good at  exchanging ideas. Humans have the ability to create complex social structures composed of co-operating and competing groups, ranging in scale from nations to individual families, and social interaction between humans has established a variety of social norms, rituals, traditions, values, laws, and ethics which form the basis of human society. Humans also have a unique appreciation for beauty and aesthetics  and when combined with the human desire for self-expression, has led to the development of culture which is expressed as  art, literature and music. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human

 

COULD BE WRITTEN AS Humans are similar to most primates in being naturally social animals, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human) but differ from other primates due to their ability to make and re-use tools.  Homo habilis, the earliest member of the human genus Homo is associated with tool making (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_habilis).  The ability of members of the genus Homo  to create objects, together with establishing highly complex social systems probably lead to the establishment of culture.  Humans that lived 25 000 years ago had an appreciation for beauty and aesthetics as demonstrated by their magnificent cave paintings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_paintings).  Even our sister species Homo neanderthalensis may have had an appreciation for music (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_flute).  While humans might not historically have been the only species to have culture we are currently the only known extant species to possess it.

 

Note  in the above example I have introduced more references and developed links to other literature to separate humans from existing  primate species.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO MIX YOUR REFERENCES AND NOT TO CONTINUE TO CITE FROM THE SAME REFERENCE.  EACH SENTENCE SHOULD REALLY CITE FROM DIFFERENT SOURCES AND THAT YOU START TO ADD YOUR OWN INTERPRETATIONS OF THE LITERATURE AS THE LAST SENTENCE ILLUSTRATES.

 

 

I trust that this helps clarify what PLAGIARISM is and how to avoid it.  Now for the not so good news, the extent of plagiarism has forced me to investigate using software to scan your assignments to assess the originality of your assignments.  If you would like to know more about this procedure please visit the link below and check that your speakers or head phone are switched on, - it is a multimedia presentation!

 

http://www.turnitin.com/static/resource_files/tii.html

 

Cheers

 

Rich

 
 



 
 
Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535
 
Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237
 
 
 
 

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